Windows 365 now supports (Dec 2022) the creating of Azure AD Cloud PCs that use single sign-on. Previously this required a dual-sign in step.
This is a big improvement, and now means users only have to logon once to the Windows 365 Cloud PC app – from here on in, their CloudPC desktops will seamlessly sign-in (subject to any specific conditional access polices you may have applied of course.) It even works with passwordless sign-on . You can see the user experience below.
Enabling the SSO setting
To enable SSO, administrators can update their existing Cloud PC provisioning profiles or create new Cloud PC policy with the “single sign on” setting enabled.
Note: Existing Cloud PCs will not automatically support SSO – these will need to be re-provisioned, which can be done from the device pane in endpoint manager as show below.
As tech vendors continue to modernise and revamp their partner programmes to better align with the pace of technology, changing needs of their customers, demands around hybrid work and the continual digital transformation acceleration, Cisco have recently added six new solution specialisations which aim to further build and support their partner competitiveness as well as recognise and reward partners with specific expertise and capability.
The six new specialisations are tied to Cisco customer priorities and represent fast-growing market opportunities for Cisco and its partners in areas where Cisco has been investing and innovating. These are heavily focussed around Hybrid Cloud and Hybrid Work and the solutions that enable these.
Cisco’s Solution Specialisations
The new solution specialisations are one of the four categoriesof partner specialisations available to qualified Cisco partners, like Cisilion to demonstrate their expertise to customers, including:
Architecture specialisations: demonstrate product expertise in specific technology areas.
Solution specialisations: demonstrate that a partner excels at delivering value with Cisco solutions, including cross-architectural offers prioritized by customers.
Cisco Powered Service specialisations: convey partner proficiency in delivering managed services and as-a-service offers.
Business specialisations: focused on horizontal business practices that are essential to supporting customers’ business goals.
Partners that achieve solution specialisations are recognised and rewarded based on the value delivered to customers. The requirements for each specialisation are tied to knowledge and experience, allowing partners to capitalize on their existing investments with Cisco.
The relevance of the new Solution Specialisations
Cisco say their solution specialisations are designed to “showcase partner value to customers and represent the type of solutions partners are selling today“. These specialisations (which are not simple to earn and retain), reflect how Cisco partners, like Cisilion, are using cross-architectural solutions to solve their customers’ biggest challenges (such as how to address the challenges or hybrid work) rather than just simply selling and deploying technology products. Cisco say that “the specialisations are awarded to partners that can demonstrate how they are working collaboratively with Cisco to help solve customer challenges such as balancing an organisation’s security needs with the flexibility employees want, providing the best digital experience or consistently delivering a secure user experience from anywhere.“
Specialisation is ranked number one as the initial critical partner selection criterion for 74 percent of customers. By tying solution specialisations to customer buying criteria, Cisco makes it easier for customers to identify which partners to work with.
Full-stack Observability (FSO): Which highlights partners expertise in centralising and correlating application performance analytics across the full IT stack. This includes integrations across Cisco’s AppDynamics, Thousand Eyes, Intersight, and Secure Application. Partners with this specialisation can demonstrates expertise in prioritising actions to deliver superior customer experiences, drive revenue streams, and accelerate digital transformation for their customers.
Hybrid Work from Office: Which recognises partners for their skills and experience helping customers evolve traditional on-site and off-site work models, with solutions that power hybrid work, enabling people to work safely and securely from home, the office, and anywhere in between on any given day or time.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): Which highlights partners’ ability to help their customers to securely enable the growing universe of roaming users, devices, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps without adding complexity or reducing end-user performance.
Hybrid Cloud Computing: Showcases partners that provide customers with simple, secure hybrid cloud computing experiences at home, in the office, or anywhere.
Hybrid Cloud Networking: Recognises partners that securely and efficiently connect and manage customers’ data, workloads, and applications across data centres, edge, and multiple clouds.
Hybrid Cloud Software: Demonstrates expertise in managing operational complexity by helping customers streamline and unify IT operations with secure, hybrid cloud management software.
Benefits for Customers and Partners
The main benefit is that this approach takes away from an old-skool technology/product sell that was all about speeds, feeds, features, and cost, and instead encourages partners to have more meaningful “outcome-based conversation“. Cisco say this should help partners do what they do best – having a more “unified solution strategy” conversation with customers where technologies integrate and work together to provide solutions that are better than the sum of the parts.
Examples of this include the alignment between Cisco’s Webex video, calling and meeting services, the network infrastructure layer, the edge, and the Internet with integrated full stack visibility across these layers to ensure the best user experience whilst simplifying IT operations through management and support.
The Yealink BH76 Teams certified headset is a premium Bluetooth headset featuring active adaptive noise cancelling, HD audio, retractable microphone, 35 hours talk time and 40 hours of battery life. The BH76 is Teams certified and also features wireless charging, has an array of smart sensors, and comes in black or light grey.
Price is circa £279 RRP.
In the box
In the box you get everything you need including:-
Leather carry pouch
Yealink BH76 Teams Certified Headset
Bluetooth 5.1 USB-A dongle (or USB-C) dongle
USB-A to USB-C cable
Charging Stand and power cable
Getting started manual / guide.
Ease of use
This is no budget headset. Everything from the brushed metal finish to the soft cushioned leather earcup and support is premium.
Powering on the device requires a two second push on the power button, after which an audio described “power on” message is heard, followed by another audio notification of the battery power remaining. Pairing is simple with a three second push on the power button to enter pairing mode and then simply go to Bluetooth settings on your laptop or phone.
Sensors in the headset detect when you are wearing it and as such, taking the headset off when listening to music or video, automatically mutes the headphones and pauses the music/video which them resumes again when you pop it back on.
For Microsoft Teams users, there is a “Teams” button on the top of the left ear piece (this is quite easy to miss however). Pressing this, opens the Teams app is not already open. According to Microsoft, Teams Certified devices with the Teams buttons light up when connected to Teams, and provide additional teams controls -the BH76 does not appear to do this – the button also does not do anything. This appears to be a Microsoft issue though (not a Yealink one) and there is a tech community thread here if you are interested.
Yealink provide a management app which can be used to manage all your Yealink devices, update settings and firmware etc., and for IT teams, the BH76 can be managed centrally from the Yealink Management Console along with your Teams Room devices and phones.
Audio Quality and Noise Cancelling
Sound Quality when listening to music is clear and sharp. The headset isn’t super loud compared to headsets from the likes of Bose or even Surface Headphones, but more than loud enough. You can also adjust the max volume settings in the Yealink app
The BH76 includes three levels of noise cancelling (off, ambient noise and noise cancelling), which can be adjusted by a small button on one of the ear cups.
Noise cancelling can be hard to test without a remote participant of course, so I used a colleague to help me out (thanks Adam). I performed the standard ruffling of a crisp packets and tapping of keyboard. Feedback was that he could only hear my voice and couldn’t hear the other background noises at all.
The noise cancelling is fully adaptive, and the levels automatically adjust based on the level of background noise detected. This is achieved using five microphones around the headset which create an “Acoustic Shield” that senses how far away and how loud sounds are to allow it to filter out background noises, leaving your voice loud and clear. This is essential for use in noisy offices or coffee shops for example.
Other audio and sound settings (such as noise exposure limits, and fine tuning ACN) can be configured using the Yealink USB connect software – as shown above ⬆️
To aid in audio pick up, the microphone boom extends out from the right ear cup. When not in use, this can then be conveniently popped back away into the ear-cup, which makes it look more like a conventional stereo headset and of course ensures the mic boom does not get knocked or broken. If you push it away when on a call, it also mutes the microphone.
Comfortable and simple to use
Unlike other headsets I have tried and used over the years, the Yealink BH76 headset is really comfortable, even if you find yourself in the office on calls all day! I found that even after 4 hours of wearing, I did not feel any discomfort and almost forgot I had them on.
Simple to use too – The Yealink BH76 is really easy and intuitive to use too. I did find that the button placement took a little getting used to, since the buttons are a little small for my fat fingers, but it’s simple enough to use. Personally, I would liked to have seen more controls on the ear cups themselves rather than on the cup body (but suspect this is a personal thing).
The device supports Bluetooth pairing with 2 devices simultaneously, or you can use the USB cable that ships with device to plug in via the wire. Yealink provide a BT51 Bluetooth dongle too which provides the best connectivity and “makes the device” Teams Certified. I’m personally not a fan of dongles (I loose them), but Microsoft are slowly working to remove the need for dongles.
Charging and Storage
You can order the BH76 headset with the optional, yet highly useful charging stand. This uses a power cable (not USB powered unfortunately) and provides a convenient stand for your headset when not in use.
The base of the stand also serves as a wireless charger for your phone/tablet and of course your Yealink Headset which means no fumbling around for cables and free USB ports on your laptop.
In short – a really great quality headset with excellent battery life, good audio and great acoustic fencing qualities. There a few cosmetic improvements I’d like to see in the next version but over all, would recommend to anyone for hybrid work.
Surface Laptop 5 is available in several colours including platinum, black, sage and sandstone, this latest iteration of hasn’t changed much from last years’ Surface Laptop 4. It features the same dimensions and form factor as previous generations (which has barely changed since the original version) but has received the annual welcomed tech update and now includes the latest 12th generation Intel chipsets, built on the Intel® Evo™ platform, offering up to 50% power than previous generation. Find out more about Intel Evo?
Thanks to Microsoft, I was able to get my hands on a Surface Laptop 5 on launch day and have been using it as my daily machine to allow me to put it through the paces and write this hands-on review.
If you have never looked at the Surface line of laptops before, then you should! – Microsoft make the most gorgeous looking, premium devices on the market – all of which feature an anodized aluminum metal process, resulting in a luxury and smooth finish, which closely resembles the look and class of a MacBook. If you’ve ever used a cheaper, plastic built Laptop before, you will instantly notice the premium feel of Surface difference.
There are a range of colours available, but the 15-inch model only offers Black or Platinum, while the 13.5″ version also provides the option of Sage and Sandstone. I like the black personally on Surface Laptop range though I do think next time I might try a colour!
Microsoft also offer Alcantara options for the keyboard area, although it is limited to the 13.5″ Platinum model only. This gives a slightly soft and more premium finish to the keyboard deck, which provides a nice alternative to the aluminium metal. See below.
Overall feel and use
This is a quick laptop. I have been using a Surface Book 2 and Surface Pro X for a few years now as my two main devices, yet after just a few hours with the Surface Laptop 5, I could feel that this was a great bit of kit. Everything from the speed to power on (instant on), Windows Hello sign-in, launching apps, multitasking, and switching apps was effortless and fast. Video was smooth and audio was sharp and felt like it surrounded me.
The Surface Laptop 5 itself is thin and light – the 13.5 ” I am testing weighs just under three pounds, which is perfect for on-the-go and taking between home and office.
Both the 13.5″ and 15″ models look similar their predecessor, the Surface Laptop 4 (and those before it – a design that still looks modern and fresh. The device feels every bit premium design as you’d expect from a Surface. It is built from high quality refined aluminium in the popular minimalist design, with full size keyboard, large and responsive track pad, 120Hz, 3:2 ratio, 201 PPI pixel sense display, protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
Sensors, camera and speakers are hidden out of sight, the lid has an elegant and subtle Surface Logo on the lid, and around the sides of the device are the standard range of ports, which consist of the Surface Connector (I know many don’t like this but I like it from a consistency perspective), USB-A, USB-C (Thunderbolt 4) and a 3.5mm headphone jack (which interestingly has been removed from the latest Surface Pro 9 line up).
Microsoft have also further perfected the balance and feel of the device, with one-handed opening and nicely cut-away base that gives the impression that the device is floating above your workspace.
Available in 13.5- or 15-inch variants, the screen is super clear and bright and features 120Hz refresh, 3:2 aspect ratio 201 PPI pixel-sense display. The 3:2 aspect ratio is standard across all Surface devices and gives additional vertical space when working on docs or browsing the Web, but it does mean you’ll get the black pillar box lines top and bottom if watching a movie in 16:9. The screen aspect ratio works really well for work and school.
The screen features the 10-point multi-touch as is super responsive, giving it a natural advantage over other premium products like the Apple Mac Book Pro (which still doesn’t have a touch screen). The screen is super precise and supports all Surface Pen generations. The screen also supports Dolby Vision IQ which works by adjusting the colours on the screen based on the levels of ambient light to boost your viewing experience. Watching movies appeared better than my home TV (I need to upgrade) with ultra-vivid colours which are powered by Dolby Vision®3.
I personally find use any device without a touch screen cumbersome to use as touch now feels so natural across almost every other type of device we use.
The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 5 (GG3 on the Alcantara version), which not only protects the screen but also provides great resistance to scratching.
Camera / Webcam
The front-facing camera is set in the bezel of the display. This is an HD 720p quality optic that supports Windows Hello. To be honest, 720p seems a bit poor for a premium level laptop, but the camera is high quality and provides good images even in poor light.
Camera quality is ok – more than enough for video calls, but you wouldn’t use it for high-quality photos – a little grainy.
Audio and Sound
Audio quality on Surface Laptop is really good, especially compared to cheaper devices on the market. You get dual studio mics located each side of the web cam and the speakers, leverage Dolby Atmos®.4 to provide virtual surround sound. It’s great for Teams calls or watching movies etc.
As always with super thin devices, connectivity is minimal but practical. All the ports are located on the left-hand side of the laptop with just the Surface connect port located on the right side which can be used for charging and connectivity to a Surface Dock which then gives you almost endless connectivity options as well as multiple screen support at 4k.
You get a single USB-A 3.1 and a USB-C port which supports Thunderbolt 4.0. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone socket and the Surface charging connector.
For connecting more than that you’ll need to use a Surface dock or use Bluetooth of course.
For a device you can carry around and use all day – it needs to be light and have great battery life, or you are forced to carry a charger around “just in case”. Good battery life of course needs to balance three things – performance, battery life and power consumption.
Microsoft say that Surface Laptop 5 can last up to 18 hours of battery life, but the test conditions used by manufacturers is rarely the environment most workers use daily.
I averaged 9 hours and 32 minutes of battery life on a single charge.
I have been using Surface Laptop 5 for just over a month now and have not had a day (yet) where I needed to plug the device in to charge to get me through the day. In my environment I didn’t do anything special – and had settings within Windows as follows:
Screen Brightness: Auto Keyboard Backlight: Off (this is going to use power) Screen Brightness: 60% (with auto-adjust off) Power Saving Mode: Auto Power mode: Recommended (default)
With these in place, and using a typical mix of Teams calls, Office apps and Web Apps, I averaged 9 hours and 32 minutes for the laptop to go from 100% to it shutting off when i ignored the “plug me in” notifications. By best day was 11 hours 12 minutes and my worst day (which was all day on video calls), the the laptop still powered through for 8hrs 4 mins.
Microsoft is committed to sustainability and carbon reduction, and this applies to the Surface device family also. Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets are EPEAT gold-registered, and Microsoft are committed to carbon neutrality across the supply chain by 2030.
From a repairability perspective (which also reduced waste and prolongs device life), Surface Laptop 5 devices have a replaceable SSD, display, battery, and motherboard, amongst other swappable components. This is a huge win for consumers and business since it means they can not only stretch out the lifespan of the Surface Laptop 5 by replacing failed components, but it also goes a long way to help corporate ESG goals. This is not unique to Surface Laptop 5 either, the slide below from Microsoft showcases just how repairable Surface now is.
Surface is also committed to:
Ensuring packaging is from recycled, renewable or responsibly sourced content by 2025
Eliminating all virgin, single use Pretoleum-based plastics by 2025
Being fully recyclable by 2030
Uses 100% recyclable packaging by 2030
In the race for king of premium, this is also another winning factor over devices like the Apple MacBook.
Microsoft even have a YouTube video showing some of this repairability. ⬇️
Verdict – Why Choose Surface?
Surface Laptop 5 may not be a radical new or wow design, but Surface Laptop just works. I’m a big fan of Surface, so you may consider me biased (but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong)!
To me there’s four main reason I choose Surface over other brands.
Look: High-quality, thin, lightweight, premium design and workmanship
Performance: Vast range of technical configuration (and therefore price)
Support: Built to run Windows by the company that makes Windows
Sustainability: Repairable, strong commitments to re-use and recycle as well as low-power and excellent battery life (easily lasts a full day of use).